February 11, 2007
"Lost? Looking For Happiness"
(1 Peter 2:9-12)
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
Let's see, if you followed the advice of all the Super Bowl commercials, if you're a guy, you get up, shave with your Schick Quattro, jump in your State Farm insured pickup truck with the Michellin tires and the Garmin GPS navigation system. You head to your job which you found through Career Builder, wearing a VanHuesen shirt and Izod pants. You get to the office, fire up your HP computer and get on the internet through Sprint's wireless network so you can register your company's IP address through GoDaddy.com. In the mean time, you call Fed Ex on your T-Mobile phone so they can take your company's important papers to Chase.
After work you drop off the movies you got in the mail at the local Blockbuster, head home and spend some time checking your investments on eTrade while drinking a Bud and eating Cheesy Bites from Pizza Hut. That got almost everybody didn't it?
I think the Advertising and Marketing industry drives much of the economy of our country. And they pretty much convey what is cool, what's hot, what's the new IN thing. Advertising and Marketing ads play a big part in trying to tell us how to be happy and what makes up happiness. If you were to base your happiness simply on the Super Bowl Commercials, last week, you'd be somewhat Schizophrenic.
By my count there were 67 commercials. According to that small segment of ads, to be happy you have to drink either Coke or Sierra Mist, Bud or Bud Light Lite or Snapple Green Tea. You can't eat anything but Pizza Hut, Doritos, Snickers, Taco Bell, Jack In the Box, Emerald Nuts or California Cheese.
And the message was very clear, in order to be cool, you have to drive a Pick up Truck. It doesn't seem to make any difference which brand, they advertised all of them, but the truck ads out numbered the car ads almost 2 to 1. That's how the world says we should find Happiness. In Stuff.
Scripture is actually more akin to one of the characters in a Sierra Mist Commercial: Remember this guy?
Sierra Mist: Beard Combover:
Scripture says we're the abnormal people, "aliens" as Peter puts it in 1 Peter 2:9-16 (NRSV). Listen:
 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul.
 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.
You and I are called to live differently. Maybe not as differently as Combover Guy but we're called to live by a different set of standards, a different way of treating one another, a different way of looking at the world. As the Message puts it: "Friends, this world is not your home, so don't make yourselves cozy in it. Don't indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they'll be won over to God's side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives."
Maybe a Ziggy cartoon says it best.
We're called to go against the flow.
If we're Looking For Happiness, then as Christians, we have to be conscious of the fact that we're different. We live by different rules, beliefs and ethics. And we have to be careful so we don't get cozy. You see, the World Beckons.
Remember this commercials Bud Lite: Rock, Paper, Scissors:
This is how the world tells us to act. The world, in general, tells us to put self first. To think only of ourselves and to heck with everybody else. My needs come before anyone else's.
But, if we follow the ways of the world, it's like a Robert Cray song says: It has "consequences for me and you. Consequences for what we do." This is how those consequences can be seen.
Bud Lite: Fist Bump/Slap:
Imagine if you were that young man and the boss was God on Judgment day. You see, that's the problem with following the world. It's completely out of step with God.
The World Beckons, but so does God. God continues to call us, day in and day out. God calls us to follow Him through a relationship with Christ where we'll discover the Meaning and Purpose for our lives. Through Christ we experience forgiveness and healing and are enabled to forgive others. And through Christ we're given our marching orders, "To Love God and Love Our Neighbor as ourselves."
Unfortunately, we're more like the guy in the Snapple Commercial
As humans we always tend to make things much more complicated than they really are. That's why there are so many laws in the Old Testament. God said: Love God and Love Your Neighbor but we got curious and said, well what's that mean? So God expanded the two to 10.
And then we got even more confused. Well, what do you mean by bearing false witness and lying? What about little white lies to protect someone's feelings. Is borrowing half a dozen paper clips and a half a ream of paper from the office really stealing? We make it more complicated than it is and become confused like this:
Jack In The Box: Vegetarian:
Confusion seems to reign because We Always Seem To Make It Harder than it really is. According to Scripture, I don't think it's hard at all.
According to Scripture all we have to do is act out of love for God and love for our neighbor, showing honor, respect, honesty all of those attributes that come with love. I thought two of the commercials did a good job of capturing that idea.
Fed Ex Ground: Judgment:
We're called not to judge others. That's one of those teachings and practices that make us different; that makes us aliens, and abnormal. And yet it is central to the living of our faith. There was another commercial which touched on the power of love.
Grand Theft Auto: Coke, Love
The song in that commercial says, "give a little love and it all comes back to you." Let me tell you why that's so important in this commercial. This commercial is based on the lead character of a game called Grand Theft Auto which allows players to take on the role of a criminal in a big city so they can rise in the ranks of organized crime over the course of the game.
The missions generally revolve around bank robberies, assassinations and other crimes. The series has been pretty controversial because of the violence such as the killing of policemen and military personnel, ending with only temporary consequences.
So, to see this character transformed into a lovable character is a pretty big deal. And while Coke uses the song as the vehicle to get the message of love across, it also implies that drinking Coke can change your world.
I doubt that drinking Coca Cola will change the world, or we'd be using it for communion instead of grape juice. But I do think the underlying message of the commercial and especially the music is important. "Give a little love and it all comes back to you" is just another way of expressing the Golden Rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
And I believe that it's really that simple. And maybe that's why it feels so alien, so abnormal. Because while it's simple, it's so utterly different from what the world practices.
There was one commercial I really liked but I would have changed the ending a little, Prudential: Rock:
I would have included Jesus being our Rock. The foundation Rock upon which our lives and faith have been built. The strong Rock that holds us up when everything around us seems to be crumbling. The Rock of Ages whose love and offer of forgiveness never changes.
The world says the only way you can be happy is to own or use all this stuff in commercials. But that kind of happiness is only transitory. It's here today and gone tomorrow after it's broken or something new and more exciting has come along.
Jesus is the Rock who constantly reminds us where Meaning, Love, Forgiveness, Peace, Purpose and Happiness can be found. Not in the world, even though it Beckons. Not in worldly things, because they wither and die, rust and decay. But in God's love, which is Eternal and Never fades or dies.
True Happiness for the Christian is found in a deep relationship with God through Christ. And in living an abnormal life, which is alien to much of what the world teaches. True happiness is found in a life based on the love of God as found and experienced through the love of Jesus Christ who gave His life on the Cross so we could have True Happiness in God.
If you always act out of love for God and love for your neighbor, showing honor, respect, honesty and all of those attributes that come with the love of Christ, then I think you'll find Happiness. Not Worldly Happiness but Eternal Happiness.
Barclay, William: Daily Study Bible of the New Testament (WordSearch Bible Software Version)
Homiletics, (Communications Resources, Inc., Canton, OH)
Lectionary Homiletics, (Lectionary Homiletics, Inc. Midlothian, VA)
Dynamic Preaching, (Seven Worlds Publishing, Knoxville, TN)
The Clergy Journal, (Logos Productions, Inc., Inver Grove Heights, MN)
Preaching Magazine (Preaching Resources, Jackson, TN)
Circuit Rider, (The United Methodist Publishing House, Nashville, TN)
The Interpreter's Bible, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1953)
The New Interpreter's Bible, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1995)
Lights, Camera...Faith by Peter Malone with Rose Pacatte (Daughters of St. Paul, 2002)
Praying the Movies by Edward McNulty, (Geneva Press, Lousville, KY, 2001)
Movie Clips for Kids (Group Publishing, Inc., Loveland, CO, 2002)
Bore No More, Vols 1 & 2 (Group Publishing, Inc., Loveland, CO, 1995 & 1999)
Group's Blockbuster Movie Illustrations, Vols 1 & 2 (Group Publishing, Inc., Loveland, CO, 2001 & 2003)
Movie Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, by Craig Brain Larson and Andrew Zahn(Zondervan Publishing, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI, 2003)
Videos That Teach: Vols 1-3 by Doug Fields & Eddie James (Zondervan Publishing, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI, 1999, 2002, 2004)
SermonWriter by Dick Donovan (Copyright, Richard Niell Donovan, 2000
The Sermon Mall
Deacon Sil's Homiletic Resources
Richard Fairchild Lectionary Resources
Ministry and Media
Internet Movie Database
Preaching.com's Movie Ministry
The Text This Week Movie Theme Index
The Source For Youth Ministry Movie Clips